Fifth Sunday – Year A – Easter

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Fifth Sunday – Year A – Easter

 

Readings: Acts 6:1-7; 1 Pet 2:4-9; Jn 14:1-12.

 

1/ Reading I: RSV Acts 6:1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon them. 7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

 

2/ Reading II: RSV 1 Peter 2:4 Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; 5 and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 To you therefore who believe, he is precious, but for those who do not believe, “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner,” 8 and “A stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall”; for they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

 

3/ Gospel: RSV John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, `Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves. 12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.”

I. THEME: Human dignity and their noble destination 

            According to God’s creation and salvation, human beings have an important position more than any creatures of God’s creation (Psa 8:3-6). To know how to behave according to their noble dignity, people need to learn to understand all of God’s revelations for them. If people don’t learn, they shall act like other animals and die like them; and as a result, they never can reach the ultimate destination which God predestines them to be.

            Today readings illustrate many proves that people don’t know their noble origin and destination. In the first reading, though the early Church was eagerly built its ideal community by putting everything in common; this eager is starting to fade when the greed and jealousy between the Hellenistic and Jewish widows are growing. The apostles, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, knew how to solve these problems wisely. The apostles suggested to them that they should choose among them seven wise and holy deacons who shall be approved by the apostles’ laying of hands. These deacons shall be the apostles’ co-workers in serving God’s people. In the second reading, the author of the First Letter of Peter emphasizes the faithful’s noble destiny; “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” In the Gospel, Jesus revealed many important revelations for his disciples: There are many rooms in his Father’s house; he went away to prepare places for them and shall come back to bring them with him, so that he can no longer be separated from them.

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: “Brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty.”

1.1/ A serious problem happened in the early Church: When were permeated by the joy of Jesus’ resurrection, the early faithful sold every things they have and put in a common fund so that whoever has a need, can used it. This idealism didn’t last long because faction, jealousy and greed started to soak in, as the author of the Acts reported, “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.”

            This complaint was heard by the apostles. If they don’t solve the problem wisely, the early Church shall be in danger of dissolution. Moreover, the apostles knew with certainty that they don’t have time to solve everything and the preaching of the Gospel must be put above eating and drinking.

 

1.2/ The apostles properly solved the problem: So, the Twelve gathered all their disciples and said to them, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

            This suggestion was agreed by all. They chose “Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch.” They set these seven before the apostles and they prayed and laid their hands upon them.

            The problem was solved; the apostles have seven more effective co-workers. Deacon Stephen became the Church’s first martyr. Deacon Philip eagerly preached the Good News for the Ethiopian eunuch and the Samaritans. “The word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” If the apostles were afraid of distributing their power, the early Church shall be damaged severely and lack a chance to grow.

2/ Reading II: The faithful’s noble destiny

2.1/ The corner stone: This expression has its origin from Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16, and was repeated in Romans 9:33, Ephesians 2:20, and in today passage. The author of the First Peter listed out the three main functions of stones:

            (1) To destroy: In the ancient time, people had no guns and bullets; they used round stones as a weapon to destroy their enemy’s military places. Today, there are still many piles of these round stones in Palestine.

            (2) To be a cause for falling (cf. Isa 8:14): A stone can be a cause for falling; if a climber steps over a loosed stone, he can fall into the abyss. Many authors of Scripture compared Christ as a stone that causes many to fall down as the author of the First Peter quoted, “But for those who do not believe, “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner,” and “A stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall.””

            (3) To build a house or God’s temple: Christ chose Peter as the Rock to build his Church (Mt 16:18). Our author illustrated Isaiah 28:16, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame. To you therefore who believe, he is precious.” The author of the Letter to the Ephesians called Christ the corner stone of God’s temple, with the foundation is the prophets and the apostles, and all faithful are the living stones of the temple (Eph. 2:20).

2.2/ The faithful are living stones: The author advised his faithful, “Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” The author also emphasized the faithful’s noble dignity through three important characteristics. The faithful are:

            (1) a chosen race: The word “genos” has three meanings in Greek; it can be descendants of the same ancestor; those in a same family or a genus of a plant or an animal. The author wanted to describe the faithful according to the second meaning, that is, the faithful become members in God’s family because they believe in Christ.

            (2) a royal priesthood: In the Old Testament, a priest must come from the tribe of Aaron (Levi); but in the New Testament, all faithful are priests in God’s family because Christ is the perpetual priest according to the order of Melchizedek. We need to differentiate two kinds of priesthood: universal and ordained priesthood. All baptized people are universal priests because they have a duty to worship God; while the ordained priests worship God in Christ’s place and as the faithful’s representatives.

            (3) a holy people, God’s own people: In the Old Testament, only the Jews were chosen to be God’s people. When Christ came, all who believe in him become God’s people, chosen to announce God’s wonderful deeds.

 

3/ Gospel: “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.”

            There are too many of Jesus’ revelations for us in today passage. Due to the limit of the homily, we can only be brief about them; when we have more time, we shall expound each of them in details.         

            (1) The ultimate goal of human life and Jesus’ departure: In heaven, there are enough spaces for all. Jesus was going to depart from his disciples to prepare a place for each of them. When he finishes, he shall be back to take his disciples to be with him; and that is people’s eternal and happy life with God. People should believe in this revelation and don’t let any suffering that happens in this life leads them into fear and desperation. These words also show God’s immense love and care for people.

            (2) “I am the way, the truth and the life”: This sentence can be divided into three important revelations. Jesus himself is:

            + the Way: He is the way which all must pass through it to come to God. There is no other way as he also said, “No one comes to the Father, but through me.” An example shall help us to understand this revelation better. When we get lost, we ask others for guidance. They tell us to go to this and that intersection and to turn right or left, etc. Then we are on our way, but lost again! But if someone tell us, “Follow me! I shall lead you there.” We feel safer. Similarly things happen in this world; there are too many ways that cause us to get lost and to worry; but if we listen to Jesus’ word, “I am the way,” and follow him, we shall have peace and reach our destination safely. The way can be also understood the whole of Jesus’ teachings.

            + the Truth: Christ himself is the truth. One can learn from him and then hand it on to others, but no one can claim himself, “he is the truth.” All truths must be referred to Christ’s truths to be reliable.

            + the Life: There are many aspects of human life, such as: physical, psychological, intellectual, spiritual and eternal life. If one chooses to live according to Christ’s truths, they shall reach a life that is fully of all aspects.

            (3) “He who has seen me has seen the Father”: This is a source to show the Trinity. Since the Jews only believe in the one God, this is why the apostle Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, `Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.”

            (4) What is “greater works than these” meant? Jesus promises these words to his disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.” To find out the answer, we must consider what kind of works which can be done by both Jesus and the disciples and Jesus didn’t do nor accomplish yet. There is only one thing, that is: to preach the gospel to the end of the earth. This work Jesus didn’t accomplish when he lived in the world; but he chose, trained and sent his disciples out to accomplish it. The disciples can accomplish this task is also depending on his help, because Jesus said to his disciples, “You can’t do nothing without me.”

 

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

– Each one of us has a noble dignity before God, more than all other creatures. We should live according to our important dignity to reach the ultimate goal destined by God.

– To understand how noble of our dignity is, we need to learn and to meditate what God reveals to us. Laziness and indifference make us to be listless and content with the animal life and all self-satisfied pleasures of the devil, the world and our own flesh.

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